P.A.A.R.I. Executive Director Allie Hunter McDade and Arlington Police Chief and P.A.A.R.I. Co-Chairman Frederick Ryan participated in a conference call over the weekend with White House officials, who discussed the administration’s newly-unveiled plan to curb the opioid epidemic.
The federal initiative includes a renewed commitment to providing first responders nationwide with the lifesaving overdose reversal drug naloxone, emphasizes treatment over incarceration for those battling addiction and outlines a variety of proactive approaches that have the potential to save countless lives.
“Empowering medicaid to provide more comprehensive coverage for those seeking inpatient treatment is a dramatic step forward in addressing this crisis,” said Dr. David Rosenbloom, P.A.A.R.I. Board Member and Professor of Public Health at the Boston University School of Public Health. “We fully support an approach that treats those battling addiction not as criminals, but as patients suffering from a treatable disease.”
The White House proposal — while placing a heavy focus on curtailing the supply of drugs through strict enforcement as well as limiting over-prescription of opioids — offers an opportunity for P.A.A.R.I. to further establish its model of pre-arrest diversion as the ideal approach.
“It’s clear that steering people toward recovery resources has been the most effective approach we can take on both a local and national level to combat opiate disorder and its effects,” Chief Ryan said. “I’m hopeful that the administration will stand with law enforcement and direct significant and sustained resources to supporting those of us on the front lines working hand-in-hand with the millions of Americans who are fighting this epidemic every single day.”
The elements of the administration initiative that focus directly on recovery and access to treatment include:
- Work to ensure first responders are supplied with naloxone, a lifesaving medication used to reverse overdoses.
- Leverage Federal funding opportunities to State and local jurisdictions to incentivize and improve nationwide overdose tracking systems that will help resources to be rapidly deployed to hard-hit areas.
- Expand access to evidence-based addiction treatment in every State, particularly Medication-Assisted Treatment for opioid addiction.
- Seek legislative changes to the law prohibiting Medicaid from reimbursing residential treatment at certain facilities with more than 16 beds.
o In the meantime, continue approving State Medicaid demonstration projects that waive these barriers to inpatient treatment.
- Provide on-demand, evidence-based addiction treatment to service members, veterans and their families eligible for healthcare through the Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs.
- Leverage opportunities in the criminal justice system to identify and treat offenders struggling with addiction.
o Screen every Federal inmate for opioid addiction at intake.
o For those who screen positive and are approved for placement in residential reentry centers, facilitate naltrexone treatment and access to treatment prior to and while at residential reentry centers and facilitate connection to community treatment services as needed.
o Scale up support for State, Tribal, and local drug courts in order to provide offenders struggling with addiction access to evidence-based treatment as an alternative to or in conjunction with incarceration, or as a condition of supervised release.
“P.A.A.R.I.’s law enforcement movement is based on the notion that we cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of the opioid crisis. We truly believe that a pre-arrest solution, which keeps those struggling with substance use disorders out of the criminal justice system entirely, is the gold standard for how to approach to this issue on a local and national level,” Executive Director Hunter McDade said. “Nearly 400 law enforcement agencies have seen significant success as a result of treating the opioid problem as a public health problem, and I hope this administration will take a look at community policing programs like ours that reduce overdose deaths, make our communities safer, and help people get access to the treatment they need and deserve.”